Russian Rail To Develop Trans-Siberian Rail Capacity East, Before North In Northern Latitudinal Railway Decision

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The Russian government has suspended construction of the Northern Latitudinal Railway in favor of an alternative eastern route, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin has stated at the Russian 2022 Transport Week forum.

“We have suspended the Northern Latitudinal Railway project for now. For the time being, we are building and concentrating our capacities on the eastern direction, the [RZD] Eastern Polygon project.” he said.

The Eastern Polygon Project is part of the Trans-Siberian Railway transport corridor between Europe and Asia, passing through Siberia, and will modernize the existing railway infrastructure. With Russian trade flows increasingly heading East, capacity and logistics upgrades are required to cater for the larger volumes of trade. Russia faces increasing challenges when it comes to simultaneously integrating in the political economy of the Asia-Pacific, as opposed to Europe, and this requires modernizing the Far East Regions of the country, and leverage both to secure the Trans-Siberian Railways monopolistic position as main transcontinental artery between Asia and Europe. Development of this will also impact the economic development of the Siberian region.

Khusnullin didn’t discount the Northern Latitudinal Railway entirely. “We are stepping up construction of the Murmansk railway hub. Our chief project has passed evaluation, and we will hold a tender by the end of this year to choose the contractor. So, this direction will be developed as well. Once we launch our two main directions, given the changed logistics, we will go back to the Northern Latitudinal Railway, It is a rather expensive project, but I believe it definitely has a developmental potential.” he said.

The Northern Latitudinal Railway (Obskaya-Salekhard-Nadym-Khorei), with an annual capacity of 23.9 million tonnes of cargo, will shorten the routes from deposits in northern parts of West Siberia to ports in the Baltic, Barents and Kara seas and will ensure development of the Arctic. The immediate precedence however has become the upgrading of Trans-Siberian Rail capacity towards the East and trade with China and East Asia.

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